August 24th, 2021 (JUNEAU, AK): Surrounded by miles of barren icefields, rugged mountains, and misty rainforests, the Alaskan Brewing Company’s hometown of Juneau, Alaska is almost entirely isolated from the outside world. With no roads in or out, the town of 30,000 is reliant on barges and airplanes to bring in (or out) most of what it consumes (or exports). Despite such steep odds, the Alaskan Brewing Company employs innovative brewing strategies and some good old fashioned Alaskan spirit to competitively provide its internationally renowned brews to 26 states nationwide – some of which are nearly 3,000 miles away. This is part 2 of our 4 part series on “Beer Powered Beer”, the behind-the-scenes operations that make beer from the last frontier possible.
Last week we covered the newest development in our sustainability efforts – the installment of nitrogen capturing technology. This week we focus on what paved the way for that development: our carbon recapturing equipment.
CO2 gas is used in the brewing process for several reasons. “Not only does it give you carbonation in your beer, but we also use it to purge oxygen air from the tanks and bottles, which would harm the beer,” explains Geoff Larson, co-founder of the Brewery. Now, CO2 is truly inexpensive, and most breweries just blow off the excess and think nothing of it. But they do not have to ship it to Alaska. At Alaskan, we would buy it in Seattle, ship it up the inside passage, and truck it to our facilities – it was neither economical nor environmentally friendly.
In 1998, the Alaskan Brewing Company became the first craft brewery in the United States to install and operate a carbon dioxide reclamation system. The system captures the CO2 from the brewing process, purges it, cleans it, and reuses it. The Brew Crew know that CO2 was a natural byproduct of the brewing process – as yeasts break down sugars during fermentation, they release CO2. As so they searched for a way to recapture it.
As CO2 technology became more affordable, the Alaskan Brewing Company was the first to seize on the opportunity, keeping Alaskan beer competitive in Southern markets despite much higher logistical costs. It has been said that the CO2 recovery technology paid for itself in less than five years. The goal in using gas recaptured from this natural, photosynthetic process, rather than from the traditional method of capturing it by combusting fossil fuels – was not only to save on the cost of shipping and logistics, but also to make Alaskan’s brewing process even greener.
Carbon recapturing technology would become the first in a long line of sustainability efforts at the brewery as the brewing operation would work to eventually go carbon negative.
For more on the behind-the-scenes operations of the Alaskan Brewing Company and our Beer Powered Beer process, check out the other articles in this limited blog series at: https://alaskanbeer.com/2021/08/16/beer-powered-beer-part-1-the-logistics-of-one-of-the-nations-most-isolated-and-innovative-breweries/